What do you get when John Piper, retired pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and author of several bestsellers such as Spectacular Sins, Don’t Waste your Life, and Desiring God comes to speak at your church? Well, despite his celebrity and a packed house, you get a humble servant that delivered a powerful message with great passion and conviction. The message was focused on the Holy Spirit’s assurance in the believer’s life, accurately titled A Spectacular and Scary Promise, and I just have to share some of it with you all.
The text was Romans 8:12-16:
He asked: Ever wonder if you are a child of God? Verse 14 says that “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”. It sounds pretty cut and dry, but what does it mean to be “led by the Spirit”?
Just back up one more verse, and it answers that question:
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
According to this text, what is done “by the Spirit”? It is “put[ting] to death the deeds of the body.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature describes the word flesh as “[that] which is dominated by sin to such a degree that wherever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live.”1
In other words, one of the ways we know we are children of God is if we hate our sin and are led by the Holy Spirit to want to kill it in our lives. I don’t believe there is a human alive (no pun intended) that doesn’t struggle with wanting to live by his/her own desires and rules, some of us more than others. It’s so natural to go apart from the Lord that we must have a proactive, passionate desire to be rid of anything that disobeys God within us.
To die to self is to be so repelled by sin that we starve this fallen nature and feed the spirit instead. It is to pray for this passion to grow and our self-centeredness to shrink…which, by the way, is a far cry from much of the self-loving world, (and sadly, some church doctrine) we see today.
Then Piper said something else that was interesting: There is something to die to every day.
I never thought of it that way, but I’ll bet there is something that will challenge our self-will on a daily basis. I believe I for one am so conditioned to “live” on the auto-pilot of the self that I don’t see the opportunities to die to myself. I get comfortable in my own skin, my own flesh. It fits well, this garment of me.
And that is the point. It isn’t normal to say, “Oh, Margo, she’s dead to me”, with every decision I make. Yet I have an opportunity to choose righteousness, to be more like my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and therefore truly live.
Next week I’ll talk about the second indication that someone is a child of God, and I’ll share a question I asked Dr. Piper himself.
Until then, here’s my challenge to you and to myself. What if we were to wake up tomorrow and look for those attitudes, habits, and actions that need to die?
How would you answer the question, “What did you die to today?”
2 For more on John Piper’s ministry go to Desiringgod.org